Bird Friendly® Certified Coffee according to Dr. Robert Rice

As we near the end of the summer, many of us will be shifting our focus towards new routines at work or school. Similarly, many species of wild birds will shift their focus away from breeding and will put all their energy into reaching their wintering habitats in Central and South America.  Our migratory birds spend their winter months in the lush forests that provide the food sources and protection from predators that migratory birds need to thrive during our harsh winters.
Bird Friendly habitat

Shade coffee – and quality bird habitat – as far as the eye can see.

In a recent interview available here, Dr. Robert Rice of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre (SMBC) describes the importance of forest grown coffee to migratory songbirds.  Dr. Rice points out that under the pressure of unsustainable agriculture, traditional forest coffee farms are often the last viable habitats available for migratory songbirds, monkeys, butterflies, reptiles and other organisms.  
Bird Friendly farms provide habitat for a wide range of species - not just birds.

Bird Friendly farms provide habitat for a wide range of species – not just birds.

The SMBC has characterized healthy functioning forest environments and they offer the BirdLook for the Bird Friendly® seal Friendly® coffee certification to coffee grown within them.  Dr. Rice notes the small proportion of world coffee that bears the Bird Friendly seal.  He humbly recognizes that as scientists the SMBC has created the certification, but do not have the marketing skills and channels to increase demand.  He asks that we, individually and collectively,  notice the opportunity to preserve and restore forest ecosystems in Central and South America by asking for coffee Bird Friendly® seal.

Or you can just buy it from us 😉   All our coffees are certified Bird Friendly.
Your source for Bird Friendly® certified coffee.

Your source for Bird Friendly® certified coffee.

Canada Post Labour disruption – you will still get your coffee!

Normally, we use Canada Post to deliver our online orders. With the impending work stoppage, we have already switched to using other couriers.  This will ensure that our operations will proceed as usual regardless of Canada Post labour relations. We will not put any shipments into the Canada Post system until they will guarantee to deliver all the parcels on time.

There have been a couple of small delays in shipping this week as we work towards integrating our systems with those of the other couriers and get the pick up schedules straight. We also are likely to experience some delays in deliveries because the couriers are also much busier that usual. All of the major couriers have suspended their “on time” guarantees. Lastly, in most cases the shipments are costing us more. We will cover the extra costs for now but if the disruption carries on for a long time, we may have to make some adjustments if we can’t negotiate better rates with the couriers.

We are disappointed to be here along with thousands of other small businesses across the country and hope that the Union and Corporation come to an agreement soon. We will keep you posted here and on our Facebook page

What is Bird Friendly Coffee?

The question that always comes up when we describe Birds and Beans is: “What exactly is Bird Friendly® coffee?”

A Certified Bird Friendly farm in San Juan del Rio Coco, Nicaragua

A Bird Friendly certified farm in San Juan del Rio Coco, Nicaragua

Bird Friendly coffee preserves habitat for forest creatures including our migratory songbirds. Coffee that is certified Bird Friendly grows in an agro-forest that has been deemed to be good wildlife habitat by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC).  All Bird Friendly coffee must first be certified organic, and then goes much further adding standards for shade cover, plant species diversity, canopy structure, required buffer zones, leaf litter cover and much more. These are all necessary for wildlife to flourish.  Read more on Bird Friendly criteria here.

In Latin America, where most of our migratory songbirds spend their winters, deforestation for agriculture is happening at an alarmingly fast rate.  The impact on wildlife is devastating. Huge declines in our migratory songbirds are noticeable to those of us old enough to remember the plentiful songbirds here in Southern Ontario 20 years ago versus now.  You can help slow the rate of deforestation by purchasing Certified Bird Friendly coffee from the growers who are on the front-lines of the resistance to this overwhelming destruction.

A Dragon Fruit farm has replaced the forest that is adjacent to a Bird Friendly coffee farm.

A Dragon Fruit farm has replaced the forest that is adjacent to a Bird Friendly coffee farm.

By choosing Bird Friendly certified coffee, we support the growers who steward forest ecosystems.  Beyond preservation of ecosystems and diversity of species, Bird Friendly stewardship also results in soil conservation,  pest control, pollination, water storage, carbon storage and climate change mitigation. Read more on ecological benefits here.

Bird Friendly farms provide habitat for a wide range of species - not just birds.

Bird Friendly farms provide habitat for a wide range of species – not just birds.

Sometimes the phrase “Shade Grown” is used on coffee labels as if it were equivalent to Bird Friendly.  Unfortunately, this is like accepting “natural” as equivalent to “organic”.  While Bird Friendly coffee is indeed “shade grown”, we need to go a bit deeper if we want to ensure our good will hits the target. It isn’t the shade that provides the habitat but the fact that Bird Friendly farms are functioning, biodiverse, forest ecosystems.   The SMBC developed the Bird Friendly coffee certification so we can confidently choose to support produces who grow their coffee in harmony with forest dwellers…  Forest dwellers like this troupe of howler monkeys David saw on a Bird Friendly coffee farm in Nicaragua.


Sales of Certified Bird Friendly coffee also help to fund the research performed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This research advances the understanding of migratory birds that we need in order to preserve them for future generations. Look for the seal on the bags when you buy your coffee.  You will find this seal on all of our bags.



Why is Boxed Water Better?

At Birds and Beans we are forever expanding and deepening our commitment to sustainability. As we learn about issues and find solutions, we weave them into the fabric of what we do. Some years ago, we were struck by a beautiful impactful art project by Chris Jordan that beautifully exposed some consequences of thoughtless plastic waste. We posted this and never ordered water in plastic bottles again.

The remains of a baby albatross and the contents of its stomach.

The remains of a baby albatross and the contents of its stomach.

Birds and Beans is proud to be free from plastic bottles since May 2012.  The life cycle of a plastic bottle has harmful effects to the environment throughout every step of the chain: from formation to disposal. For more information on the life cycle of a plastic water bottle, check out this Ted-Ed video.

We are an official Quench Water Re-fill Location. Bring your reusable water bottle and we are happy to fill it up with filtered tap water. We offer a pitcher of iced water with glasses for customers to enjoy in the cafe. We also offer a bowl of water for the four-legged bunch.

Despite all of these options, people still want to buy water to go. We want to make you happy, so we investigated options to provide a take-out water option without contributing to the Garbage Patch, harming animals who mistake micro plastics for food or degrading the quality of the soil that supports us.

Boxed Water is Better

Boxed Water is Better

The Boxed Water folks in Michigan came up with the great idea of offering water in boxes. Boxes are made from trees, which is a renewable resource. Conservation is important to them, so the trees being used come from well-managed forests. The cartons are 100% recyclable. Less resources are used when shipping the boxed packaging to the locations where water is filled compared to plastic bottles because boxes can be shipped flat. The water inside is purified with UV, carbon and reverse osmosis filtration. As a bonus, know that 1% of Boxed Water revenue is being donated to reforestation and world water relief.

Please enjoy our free filtered water. If you need to, enjoy Boxed Water knowing that it is a more sustainable option than anything coming in a plastic bottle.

Misleading Menus

Last week, news surfaced that a Toronto Restaurant was misleading its customers by claiming that dishes and certain ingredients were special in terms of being premium, organic or local when they weren’t.

Factory farmed eggs were sold as “Free Range Eggs”, Farmed Atlantic Salmon was claimed to be “BC Organic Salmon” and Quaker Harvest Crunch was sold as “organic granola”. For more details, see the article from the Toronto Star

Many people are willing to pay a premium for special products such as these and so for the unscrupulous vendor, there’s an opportunity to increase price without increasing their costs by engaging in a little creative menu writing. We find this to be very disappointing and it raises the question of how can you be sure that the claims on a menu or a package are true?

There are two major ways to protect yourself from being a victim of false labels:

1) Look and ask for Certifications

While it is certainly possible to claim that a product is certified when it is not, it is a more deliberate lie and there are checks and balances in the system that help you determine if the claim is correct. In our case, we are a certified Organic Coffee Roaster and we can show you our Organic certificate. If we label a coffee to be organic that is conventionally grown, we would risk losing our certification. We are inspected and our records are checked every year to ensure we are compliant with the Organic regulations. In the case of some certifications such Fair Trade or Bird Friendly, you can look up if the supplier is registered with the Certifier.

Our coffees are Certified Organic by EcoCert.

Our coffees are Certified Organic by EcoCert.

2) Ask about the Origins of the items

If a restaurant claims a product to be Organic or local or heirloom or special in any way, they should be prepared to explain the basis of the claim. So ask your server, if it is local, what farm did it come from? When? if it is organic, is it certified or how do they know it is really organic? The more people ask for details, the more difficult it will be for restaurants to mislead their customers.

Choosing sustainable, local, or artisanal foods can be rewarding in terms of tastes and the food experience and are often well worth the premium price, as long as we are getting the products that are being advertised.

Paris Climate Change Agreement – a Moment of Truth

 “It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement. Today it is a moment of truth.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke these words as he declared that the Paris Climate Change conference known as COP21 had reached an historic multilateral agreement. It is our sincere hope that he is right and that people of all countries see this as a call to action — It is the beginning of a process, and not the end.

The agreement is significant – nearly 200 countries have committed to a goal of limiting temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, rather than the 2 degrees that appeared to be the target just two weeks ago. The agreement is the product of a lot of hard work by many people.  From where I sit it seems that much credit is due to French President Hollande and UN Climate Chief Christiana Figures. As Canadians, we are delighted to see a change in the position of the Canadian delegation from obstructionist to constructive.

Local Children try birding

Delighted children try birding on a Bird Friendly® coffee farm.

As important as this agreement is, it is just the beginning.  The work lies ahead and we will face many obstacles and difficult choices in pursuing it.  To achieve the goals set in Paris, we will need to use the agreement as a framework to help us maintain our collective resolve as we face the challenges of necessary change together. As consumers, we have a big impact on carbon emissions – we make choices with far reaching consequences when we spend our dollars. Consumers reward the behaviors of everyone in the supply chain with every purchase we make:  Participants in the supply chain do what the monetary rewards incent them to do.  To curb extreme climate change, we will have to change deeply embedded common practices by changing the influence of monetary rewards.  Taxing carbon will help with this and it can work more quickly and more effectively if we understand it and if we consciously support behaviors we want to encourage in supply chains.

2 ways to grow coffee

Coffee grown upslope provides habitat versus downslope sun coffee farm.

At Birds and Beans our founding mission to preserve biodiversity directly supports climate objectives: preserving habitat is preserving forests.  And preserving forests has been identified in Paris as a critical component to achieving climate objectives.

The Guardian

Many of the world’s companies pay no attention to how their supply chains are damaging forests, the Prince of Wales has warned as he urged action to stop deforestation.

Sadly, during the decade and a half that we have offered this climate and habitat friendly coffee, we have seen an explosion in demand for unrecyclable plastic single serve pods containing unsustainable sun grown coffee. Single use coffee pods are the source of a great deal of profit (coffee offered in pods nets out to about $50 per pound!) while convenience brands ignore adverse environmental impact of their coffee and other unsustainable food offerings.

We maintain that using a grinder, a kettle and a drip filter holder is just as convenient a method of brewing a single cup of coffee, but has the merit of supporting an entirely sustainable supply chain.  And the superior flavour in the cup is incomparable!  This is one example of the kind of change that we as citizens can make as climate objectives are pursued.  

Our government reached an agreement because they believed it to be an expression of our collective will.  As policy changes result in choosing sustainability over convenience, waste and unchecked growth, we will have to demonstrate our support.  Let us make sure that our commitment runs deep and that no future government will be tempted to break the agreement for their own short term political gain. 

We are the citizens of the world at a the moment of truth.  Collectively, the future is in our hands.

Christmas Blend 2015

Specially packaged for Christmas this coffee blends the gift of coffee with the gift of conservation!

The coffee lovers in your life will love this lovely smooth coffee – and the festive label. The bird and nature lovers in your life will love that each package of coffee conserves 110 sq ft of winter habitat for the songbirds that will return to us in spring.

Giving certified Bird Friendly® coffee triples the giving: give the coffee to your friends and family, give the habitat to the birds, give the birds to the world.

Enjoy definite butterscotch with undertones of coconut on the nose. It is smooth with harmonious combination of chocolate, caramel and nut in the cup. The chocolate remains in the long sweet aftertaste… and, oh my, a hint of berry to top it off.

This coffee shows well brewed at regular or 3/4 strength.

Buy a case of twelve for the price of ten all those on your “little gifts” list!XMAS_Blend_340Beans

The Messenger Blend

We’re delighted to introduce our second Special Edition coffee: The Messenger Blend, produced in association with The Messenger Documentary – a film by Su Rynard. While the full length documentary explores the impact of our activities on birds around the world, it also offers solutions and inspires its audience to become more “Bird Friendly”. The Messenger Blend is an important part of that program.

Coffee drinkers can make one simple and easy change that will help both birds and coffee farmers – choose to drink Certified Bird Friendly coffee. This will guarantee that vital winter habitat is preserved for our migratory songbirds and the other creatures inhabiting those forests. It does so by paying a premium to the farmers who steward the forests for the coffee grown within them. You can support them just by changing the brand of coffee that you drink, and, if you already purchase specialty coffee, it won’t cost more.

The Messenger Blend is sourced exclusively from Certified Bird Friendly Organic farms. Every bag you buy helps to preserve vital forest habitat for future generations. Since we here in Canada share these migratory birds with the people of Latin America, we’ve increased the impact of the Messenger Blend by donating 10% of all sales to Bird Studies Canada – Canada’s leading science-based bird conservation organization. Every bag you purchase will also be helping to promote conservation here at home.

messenger_front_beansOrder online today by visiting

For a limited time – enter the promotion code birdsmatter when placing your order and you will receive a $1.50 shipping credit. It is really a win-win-win.

The Messenger documentary is being released more widely and we encourage you to see it. Click here to see the trailer:

For more information, visit

$3.50 Shipping all weekend from Aug 21 – Aug 23

Our friends at Canada Post are upgrading their web servers this weekend. Must be a pretty big upgrade because they are taking all their systems offline,  including the one we use to look up the shipping costs for our online orders.

Lots of people order coffee on the weekend so we didn’t want to shut down our store for an entire weekend so we decided to offer a Shipping Special – Ground Shipping will be $3.50 for all locations in Canada for all order sizes until 7 PM Sunday evening.

So, if you’re in Toronto – shipping is 3.50, Montreal – 3.50, Calgary 3.50, Kelowna 3.50 … you get the idea. So place your order this weekend and enjoy your Certified Bird Friendly coffee when it arrives next week and say “Thanks Canada Post”.

The Fine Print

We reserve the right to cancel shipments to postal Air Stage Post Offices if the shipping cost exceeds 50% of the purchase price. Sorry about that but we’ll do our best to give you a deal too.

Grow a Tree in Your Cup

One of the best parts of my job is speaking to passionate people – people who are passionate about coffee and also people who are passionate about the environment.  Some people are passionate about both.

A few months ago, I had one of those conversations with Elaine Munro of Progressive Nutritional Therapies. They had been purchasing Birds & Beans Certified Bird Friendly coffee for their office and were using it to raise funds for a tree planting near the source of the Rouge River in North East Toronto.

In the office, they charge by the cup and were also selling jars of beans for brewing at home – and called it “Grow a tree in your Cup”. They are pretty big coffee drinkers over there because when it came time to plant – they had raised enough money to plant 513 trees!

In early May,  24 members of their staff along with family members turned out to plant a selection of native trees and shrubs that were selected to be appropriate for the river side site by Ontario Streams.


Planting on the banks of the Rouge River

This is amazing – through this simple, yet creative program, they were able to both protect habitat in South and Central America by supporting Bird Friendly coffee growers, and improve habitat here at home in the Rouge River valley. Congratulations to all involved!

For the complete story see the Progressive Nutritonal Therapies Blog and for more information.